The work to replace much of West Milwaukee Street—including new water mains, a new street surface, and new curbs, gutters and sidewalks—isn’t scheduled to begin until April 2021.
But area business operators, building owners and some residents who live nearby had questions—and suggestions for possible tweaks—on plan designs a consultant showed Tuesday at Janesville City Hall.
Before a public forum the city held with project designer, MSA Professional Services, multiple residents asked city and MSA officials for more information about several proposed “tabletop” intersections that are part of the project.
According to designs on display Tuesday, the $5.1 million, mostly federally funded project includes removal of traffic signals where Milwaukee Street intersects Academy, Jackson and River streets. Those signals would be replaced by raised “tabletops” of pavement that would gradually rise 4 to 5 inches over a span of 7 feet. The raised pavement would force traffic to slow down before going through the intersection, said Brian Huibregtse, a design engineer for MSA.
He said traffic volumes on West Milwaukee Street are low enough that four-way stoplights are unnecessary and that the cost of upgrading or even maintaining them is “not warranted.”
The change would give motorists on West Milwaukee Street the right of way with two-way stops at the cross streets and make the street a more “pedestrian-friendly” environment.
Huibregtse didn’t call the raised intersections “bumps” or “speed bumps.” In one response to a resident’s questions, he referred to them instead as “‘umps.”
The project’s designers said similar tabletop intersections along parts of Monroe Street in Madison have been shown to slow traffic. Enforcement of speed limits along a street helps make raised intersections more effective, they said.
Betty Gilbert, a resident who lives in senior citizen apartments just north of West Milwaukee Street, said she didn’t like the idea of “‘umps” replacing stoplights.
Gilbert said she is one of many people who live in her apartment complex who walk to and from shops on West Milwaukee Street. Gilbert is worried people would drive too fast through the intersections with no signals and that motorists wouldn’t see pedestrians.
“People say not every senior citizen should be driving a car, but this? I don’t think it’d be safe for them to walk,” Gilbert said.
Others at the forum wanted to know details about the project timeline and how the work might affect downtown businesses.
Here are some other questions residents asked, along with answers provided by MSA officials and city engineering officials:
Q: When will work start, and what impact will it have on traffic and access to businesses?
A: MSA project engineers Chad Wagner and Huibregtse said work would start in April 2021 and that it would take between six and seven months. Contractors would begin with the section of West Milwaukee Street between River and Jackson streets. That phase would take 12 to 14 weeks and would include removal and replacement of water mains, a new street surface, and new intersections, curbs, gutters and sidewalks. This would include intersection “bumpouts” with planters, bike racks and benches. During most of the work, the stretch of Milwaukee Street would be closed to traffic.
The second leg of the project, which would take about 14 to 16 weeks, would run from Jackson Street to Five Points. The work done would be similar to that on the eastern segment and would close the street to traffic.
During both phases of the project, Main Street and Centerway would be used as a detour. Wagner and Huibregtse said contractors would work to keep at least one cross street at West Milwaukee Street open at all times.
Q: How will contractors coordinate with businesses on street and sidewalk closures?
A: The designers said nearby businesses would get regular updates sent to them, and owners would get notice of planned sidewalk closures 48 to 72 hours before work begins. The project will be overseen by the state Department of Transportation, but the state and the contractor won’t take an active role in helping businesses along the corridor plan marketing or logistical strategies during closures. That sort of planning would be left to downtown business groups, Huibregtse said.
Q: What about project delays (The Milwaukee Street bridge replacement is running months behind schedule)? Would contractors face sanctions if the project runs into delays?
A: City engineer Matt McGrath said a standard street project isn’t as complex as a structure being built “over a river” and is less likely to run into months of delays. If the project did have delays, the state Department of Transportation could impose a “liquidated damages” fee—a penalty charged to the contractor each day the project runs past an agreed completion date. The fee would offset overrun costs on the project.